We finally are at a point after a lot of behavioral therapy and maturation that we can go to Mass together and actually thrive there, versus “just surviving”. For most people, going to Mass requires no special planning or anything like that. For us, it involved only being able to attend certain parishes, at certain times of the liturgical year, making sure we had an escape in case of meltdowns, and more. Add in dirty looks and the like and I don’t find myself surprised when many families that have special kids just simply stop coming.
The biggest issue for our ASD kiddo was the fact that this child felt extremely overwhelmed by being in any church with high ceilings (spoiler alert, that’s pretty much all of them). This child would have panic attacks and feel like they were going to float up to the ceiling. And then fall back down and die.
After much trial and error, consulting with therapists, working on skills like expeccted vs unexpected behavior, Zones of Regulation and so on; we have a Mass bag put together for our ASD kiddo. The bag contains everything needed for a prayerful Mass attendance:
- A Mass visual schedule that Summer at Writing Like a Mother created. It’s been such a blessing because my ASD kiddo can finally follow along with the Mass and make checkmarks as we go along. She has other great special needs resources, so be sure to check them all out. I laminated our chart and put it on a keyring to keep the pages together. I also bring along a dual color dry erase marker for checking off boxes.
- I couldn’t find the exact weighted vest at Fun and Function, but that’s where we purchased the vest in the picture. It snaps (although one of the snaps ripped out of the fabric, so I’ll need to get it repaired) and has small sandbags inside of it to help provide some grounding and sensory input. In the wintertime we’ll use this compression shirt (also from Fun and Function) and see how that works out.
- The sunglasses help block out bright lights (or sunlight), and the gun muffs make the organ not as loud.
- Not pictured is a ballcap. That is also used (with the bill low) to block out visual stimulus and help our kiddo feel grounded and be able to focus on the Mass.
As you can imagine, we’re kind of … obvious when we’re at Mass, but we finally can worship together as a family vs one of us having to sit out with our ASD kiddo, we don’t have to avoid parishes (especially while travelling) because of architecture, and we can finally get into a regular routine which will go a long way in alleviating anxiety. I finally feel a little more relaxed, as opposed to constantly on edge about what could go wrong.